At a gathering of colleagues this week, one person brought up a series of changes he felt needed be made in another religion. It was a very carefully thought out analysis. I couldn’t help thinking that rather than prescribing a reformation of someone else’s religion, he should be thinking about a reformation of our own religion which certainly could use plenty of work on many fronts. How about a carefully thought out analysis of Christianity and a prescribed series of changes needed there?
When I think of the story of Jesus sent off into the wilderness, or the stories of Jesus going off to pray, what do I imagine? Do I imagine him praying, “God, please change the Romans? Give me a plan for reforming the Empire?” No. Do I imagine him praying, “God, turn the hearts of the pagans, the heathen, to Judaism?” No. I imagine Jesus praying to God to change him. To help him. Maybe he prayed for God to take away his anger toward the people who were threatened by him. Maybe he prayed for patience when he wanted to lash out at people. Maybe he prayed to be more loving and forgiving and understanding. Maybe he prayed for God to soften his heart. Maybe he prayed, “Here I am, Lord. It is I, Lord. I am tired of you calling in the night” to adapt a popular hymn. Maybe Jesus simply offered himself in submission and humility and meekness.
Lent is a time to think about how we need to change. It is a time to concentrate on the transformation that is needed within us. It is a time to consider how we need to be re-formed in the image of God. As Gandhi put it, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
So often if someone annoys me, I want that other person to change. But what about my need to change? Maybe I need to become more understanding. Or I need to be more patient. Or I need to be less judgmental. Or I need to be more accepting. Our prayer can be for ourselves to change and be more loving and for the other person’s highest good and well-being.
Lectionary readings for today:
Prayer: May we have the honesty and vulnerability to be open to our need for transformation and change. May we grow in our capacity to love even our enemies. Amen.